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N° 45–2000: The ethics of outer space

30 June 2000

ESA and UNESCO have prepared a joint report on the ethics of space. It will be presented to the media on 10 July in Paris by Professor Alain Pompidou, former Member of the European Parliament, and Antonio Rodotà, ESA's Director General .

In 1998 the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) - the UNESCO body charged with studying the social and ethical implications of the applications of science and technology chaired by Mrs Vigdis Finnbogadottir, former President of Iceland (1980-1996) - set up a special group to examine ethical issues related to the exploration of extra-atmospheric space.

In the same spirit, in December of that year the Director General of ESA, Mr Antonio Rodotà (who inspired the initiative), and Mr Federico Mayor, the Director General of UNESCO, created a working group on the ethics of extra-atmospheric space. This multi-disciplinary group was tasked with preparing a report on the ethical implications of space activities. Its work was coordinated by Professor Alain Pompidou, former MEP and a member of the French government's "Conseil Economique et Social".

ESA and UNESCO are now publishing this report, which draws on the experience and knowledge of international experts from the United Nations, national space agencies and industry. On Monday, 10 July 2000 the report will be presented to the media at ESA Headquarters in Paris during a press conference starting at 18h30.

The report examines the ethical problems posed by the utilisation of outer space.

Topics such as life in space - whether manned space flight, the search for life in space or the return of samples from other celestial bodies - space debris, Earth monitoring and the public image of space exploration are analysed in the report.

"Ethics is a fundamental aspect of human society. For those who are involved in space activities, ignoring this debate is not an option." said Antonio Rodotà. "At the European Space Agency we are committed to ensuring that the ethics of space science and technology will be considered in our decisions and in our programmes", he added.

Media representatives wishing to attend the press conference are kindly requested to fill out the attached reply form and return it by fax to:

ESA Media Relations
Fax: +33(0)1.53.69.7690.

For further information please contact :

Géraldine Naja

ESA, Strategy and Business Development

Tel:+33(0)1.53.69.7532

Fax: +33(0)1.53.69.7690

UNESCO press service

Tel: +33(0)1.4568.1744

Fax: +33(0)1.4568.5652


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